Bywater affordable housing development takes a big step forward

On Thursday, the New Orleans City Council approved a zoning change that would allow the Housing Authority of New Orleans to move forward with a housing development in Bywater that would provide 82 affordable housing units.

The proposed four-story building would take up an entire city block bordered by Chartres Street, France Avenue, Mazant Street, and Royal Street. The land is owned by HANO, but the development would be constructed and managed by ITEX Group, a Houston-based private development firm.

The developer wants to subsidize the affordable housing units with a variety of government funding mechanisms, including low-income housing tax credits and HANO’s project-based voucher program.

At Thursday’s meeting, the council also passed a motion that initiates a “planned development process” that gives the council much tighter control over the project’s details. It directs the City Planning Commission to hold a public hearing and publish a report on whether the development is compatible with the neighborhood’s character. The commission will have to consider the development’s architecture and the effect the building will have on green space, storm-water management, and public transportation.

The proposed development has been in the works for over three years, but it grew contentious in recent months and nearly fell apart in the last couple weeks.

Orleans School Board moving ahead with McDonogh 7 land swap for former dumpsite

The Orleans Parish School Board is ready to move forward with its plans to trade the historic McDonogh No. 7 school for land atop the former Silver City dump for use as high school athletic fields.

At a committee meeting Tuesday, district Executive Director of Capital Planning Sue Robertson said only two New Orleans charter schools had expressed interest in the roughly 140-year-old school, and neither wanted to buy or lease it, freeing up the district to dispose of it.

“So we’re going to move forward with the other options on the property that were discussed,” Robertson said.

The board announced plans to swap the school for land owned by the Housing Authority of New Orleans near Booker T. Washington High School on Earhart Boulevard earlier this year.

That caught the attention of the Touro Bouligny Neighborhood Association and its members. Not only does the group want McDonogh 7, located on Milan Street, to remain a school, they think it’s more valuable than the property officials have their eyes on.

Small charter groups seek shared bus company in hopes of saving money

At least seven New Orleans charter schools are teaming up in hopes of finding more affordable bus service next school year.

New Orleans College Prep, a two-school charter group, led the cooperative charge by requesting proposals from bus companies earlier this spring. Four companies responded, College Prep’s Director of Operations and Facilities Anthony Crim said. The winning bidder was Larose-based B & L Transportation.

“We were smaller charter management organizations and we were being ignored and priced out, and we weren’t getting the service we thought we deserve and thought the students deserved,” Crim said. “We still wanted to hold our autonomy but we knew there was an economy of scale where we were better if we were united.”

Transportation is often one of a school’s top three expenditures, one College Prep administrator said.

Behind The Lens episode 33: ‘Sort of an elusive character

A New Orleans charter school network — Friends of King — is moving to a four-day school week. The group says it will improve academics, save money and attract teachers. But critics say its a challenge for parents who need to secure childcare. Marta Jewson has been following the story.

Also, affordable housing.

The New Orleans City Council cleared the way for a Bywater housing development that would provide 82 affordable housing units. Supporters say the move will help address issues of gentrification and segregation in the Bywater – while opponents fear the building will turn into a quote, “isolating ghetto” in a neighborhood of single and double family homes.

And federal prosecutors have charged a local developer with conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the billion-dollar collapse of First NBC Bank. Part of the alleged scheme involves the Lake Terrace shopping center in Gentilly. We talk to Lens co-founder Karen Gadbois, who has followed the site for years.

Opinion: Massive Bywater public housing proposal would be a big step backwards

Bywater resident Frederick Starr weighs in on a new development: “Like most attractive cities, New Orleans badly needs affordable housing. It needs affordable housing that will enable residents — newcomers and old-timers alike, regardless of income level — to interact easily and amicably. This calls for a scale and density that integrates public housing with the broader neighborhood.

Unfortunately, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) is proposing just the opposite.  It wants to build a single massive housing fortress at Chartres and Mazant streets in Bywater, a design that will isolate low-income residents from the neighborhood and perpetuate the very pathologies that have led the federal government to tear down massive housing projects across the country, including the big New Orleans complexes that went up, starting in the 1930s, and came down after Hurricane Katrina.

I write as a neighbor of the proposed mega-structure. I strongly support affordable housing. Translating words into action, I worked closely with James Pate and his team at Habitat for Humanity to come up with a plan that would easily integrate residents of the new housing with the neighborhood and vice versa. But HANO rejected this, and turned over both design and construction to the for-profit Houston firm, ITEX.”

Opinion: Prof disputes column that declared dumping sewage in wetlands a big ‘green’ mistake

Columnist John Day challenges a previous Lens column:

“The recent column by Ed Bodker is generally misleading and filled with statements that are factually incorrect.

Sewage is not being dumped into wetlands, not legally at least.  Sewage is what goes into a treatment plant and what comes out is treated municipal effluent.  The degree of treatment depends on the method of treatment and the condition of the receiving waterbody.  Bodker understands this but he continually misleads readers by claiming sewage is being discharged into wetlands.

Bodker says that partially treated sewage is being dumped into wetlands.  All sewage is partially treated unless it is treated to the level of drinking water.  The level of treatment depends on the limits set by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in the discharge permit and by the condition of the receiving waterbody.  For example, treated effluent that is discharged to the Mississippi River has less stringent limits than that discharged to a water quality-limited stream or lake.”

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...